As a shy retiring sort, the idea of doing a traditional “book tour” where you travel around the country, sit in bookstores, and sign books has always sounded like an expensive way to have a really bad time in bookstores.
Don’t get me wrong, I love bookstores, but I also personally have never been to a book signing or even wanted to go to a book signing. As an author, you get to sit behind a table with a stack of books and hope someone stops by and says “hi.” It’s always seemed really depressing and unpleasant.
I don’t live near a large metropolitan area, and getting to one is not easy or inexpensive. The weather and the fact that I have four dogs and two cats that need tending seriously lowers my spontaneity when it comes to travel. If you have responsibilities like pets or kids that you can’t leave for an extended period, doing a book tour can be really problematic.
For people like me, a virtual book tour is a great alternative. Like a book tour, it helps you get the word out about your book. But you don’t have to leave your house. With a virtual book tour, instead of stopping by bookstores, you stop by blogs. Sometimes called a blog tour, a virtual book tour lets you share information about you and your book with visitors.
The way it works is that you contact blog owners and make a “stop” at each blog on a different day. You can either write a special post for the blog or the owner may offer a Q&A. You also generally agree to hang around and answer comments from readers.
As an expert in your niche, you probably already know many of the “players” in your industry. These blogs are the ones you should target first. You also can use blog search tools such as Technorati.com and Google’s blog search (http://blogsearch.google.com). Ideally, you want to visit popular blogs with a lot of visitors. Popular blogs with faithful readers tend to have a lot of comments. You also can get some idea of traffic rankings by going to www.Alexa.com and typing in the URL.
Blog tours have advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is that you aren’t connecting in person with your readers (although you can connect, particularly if you offer to answer questions or comments). Plus, with a true “book tour” event, with proper planning, you may get media coverage. So even if only 10 people show up at your signing, others may have heard about it over the radio or in the newspaper.
One often overlooked advantage of blog tours is that inevitably the blogger will link to your book Web site. Remember that in the eyes of Google and other search engines, incoming links are a good thing. So from a search engine standpoint, your blog tour keeps giving “Link Love” long after the official tour is over.
Unlike a traditional book signing, which is generally used to increase sales, a virtual blog tour is about increasing online “buzz” about your book. Obviously, more buzz can equal more sales, but it’s generally a process. You often won’t see sudden jumps in your sales, unless you manage to score a visit on an incredibly popular blog. However, done consistently over time, all those incoming links increase your visibility online. And the more visibility you have online, the more likely you are to sell books!